Business Standard, Jan 13, 2009
The work on the beleaguered Rs 4000 crore alumina project of the Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL) at Kashipur in Orissa's Rayagada district has resumed with the agitating project affected people agreeing to discuss their demands with the authorities.
A high level meeting, under the chairmanship of the state chief secretary Ajit Tripathy, will be held in Bhubaneswar next month to discuss various issues raised by the project affected persons.
Following the assurance of the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Southern division), Satyabrata Sahu to this effect at the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting held at Rayagada recently, the agitating locals have allowed the company to resume work. The work was stopped for about 20 days. “The construction work is going on in full swing from the last week", said a senior company officer. The company aimed to start its production from the next year.
Over 500 families of 24 villages in five grampanchayat of Kashipur block in Rayagada district are affected by this alumina project. The company has already acquired about 2000 acreas of land in the area. The project work had started during the 90's. However, it was marred by the stiff opposition from the local villagers and the environmentalists.
The work was stopped for about four years following police firing at Maikancha village, near the project site, in December 2000 in which three tribal agitators had died. When the company restarted work in 2005, the affected people demanded higher compensation for their land and employment to at least one person from each affected family.
The land-losers wanted the compensation package structured in the same line as the one prepared by Vedanta Resources Limited (VRL) for the latter’s project affected people for its Lanjigarh project in Kalahandi. The other demands included withdrawal of cases registered by the police against the villagers. As the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) work for the project was already over, the company agreed to pay an ex-gratia to make up for the difference in the compensation amount, the sources said. The company, meanwhile, has paid around Rs 14 crore out of the projected Rs 19 crore ex-gratia to be paid to the land-losers.
However, the project affected people had started the latest round of agitations from December 16 to press for fulfillment of some more pending demands and sat on dharna in front of the main gate of the company at Doraguda and locked it. They did not allow the company officials to enter the construction site.